Viva Foxy! a Russ Meyer film? No, you’re not wrong, he didn’t make it but it was one of the few film ideas that Meyer toyed with before eventually abandoning in the mid 70s. With a screenplay written by Roger Ebert, the picture was meant to star Meyer’s then-wife Edy Williams, whom he’d married after meeting on the set of 1970 release Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Edy played hypersexual porn star Ashley St. Ives), and was set to start shooting in Hollywood on December 6th 1972. Except that it never did.
So what could we have expected from Meyer? Viva Foxy! aka Foxy (the film’s title was changed to incorporate the setting) was to be centred around the early 1920′s border war between two South American banana republics. Williams was to play the titular character of Foxy McHugh, an orphan of missionary parents who had grown up on the streets and was the power behind the two thrones. One dictator was to be modeled on Che Guevara, the other on Peter Ustinov’s Nero from Quo Vadis (one can only imagine how Meyer would have done this visually in his sometimes garish style). Williams saw McHugh as her version of Erica Gavin’s Vixen character; ‘She used men and abused them and had a ball. That’s what Foxy’s gonna be about. She’s gonna do all the things that men have done. I’ll be a female guerilla’. Meyer did photograph Edy for a Playboy pictorial which was featured in the March 1973 issue. He briefly describes his latest film Foxy which, according to Russ, will be about ‘a sexy record-company executive who gets mixed up with a number of men in outrageous situations’. Whatever the outcome would have been one can only imagine that the notoriously fame-hungry Williams would have taken the lead and run with it if her portrayal of Ashley St. Ives is anything to go by.
Russ Meyer and Edy Williams on their wedding day
Whilst the film never got made, Meyer and Williams did shoot some footage to advertise the film before any plans really took off. Russ shot the film’s trailer, which had Williams water skiing in the nude, and tagged it on to the end of his feature Black Snake which was released in 1973. One of the first directors to use this concept, there are conflicting reports as to whether the trailer was actually attached to the film or not during its original theatrical run (I’ve tried a lot of online research and not come up with a definite answer, if anyone can help…). Unfortunately this ending is not on the Arrow DVD release of Black Snake and the Arrow DVD’s are currently the most comprehensive packages of Meyer’s filmography.
What is known is that the project eventually fell through. One reason was due to difficulties in putting a deal together, despite Penthouse apparently being interested at one point and Russ stating to Hollywood Reporter in April 1973 that the trailer alone had resulted in three separate offers to completely finance the budget. This issue surprises me as Meyer was already a rich man by this time in his career. The film was conceived as a $400,000 vehicle for Williams and one of Meyer’s many talents was his ability to make a film on a budget (granted, there are a few blips in his career where he has had to be bailed out). How they couldn’t raise the money is beyond me, as is why Russ didn’t just self finance the project to begin with. It’s well-known that he liked to be in control of his entire empire and works. Another reported reason is that Meyer cancelled the film’s production amid fears that investors money would be lost on a film that could be challenged by local communities when a new ruling on obscenity was drawn up by the Supreme Court allowing local communities to self-determine what they considered to be ‘obscene’.
That said, the other reason it fell through was due to a temporary breakup between Meyer and Williams. The marriage between the two of them was a tempestuous one with many questioning at the time how the relationship had even gotten to that point. By 1973, tensions were already running high between the two with Williams angry that Meyer hadn’t given her the part of Lady Susan in Black Snake which she had assumed she was getting. Her Playboy pictorial was meant to be an attempt to pacify the situation. Their arguing continued until the day that Edy decided to leave Meyer’s house and file for divorce. It was a very messy battle and Williams is not generally looked upon by the Meyer community in a positive light.
There’s no denying that Viva Foxy! would have been an interesting film had Meyer continued with his plans and made it. Edy Williams is extremely memorable in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and it would have been nothing short of an experience to see her take on a female lead in one of Russ’s many sexploitation entries. Sometimes, the imagine dreams up ideas far more exciting than those ever given to us on a plate and this is one project where dreaming is just going to have to do.